Have you ever been indecisive for so long that someone or something else decided for you?
- The flight filled up, so you didn’t take the trip.
- Someone else said yes first, so they headed the project.
- The tickets sold out, so you didn’t see the show.
In short, by not deciding, you ultimately made your decision.
Sound familiar? Yep, me too.
As ADHDers, we often struggle with decision-making.
We tell ourselves there’s a right decision to make.
We worry we’ll regret making the wrong decision.
And we find ourselves overwhelmed thinking about all the different options, so we avoid the decision altogether.
We don’t choose anything.
I call these situations “no-decision decisions.”
And that’s what we’re talking about on episode 125 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
- Why we get stuck in these no-decision decisions.
- How to identify when we’re in the spin cycle of indecision.
- What we can do to make decisions with confidence.
Listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In This Episode, You Will Discover…
- Why we get stuck in no-decision decisions.
- How to identify when we’re in the spin cycle of indecision.
- How to decide with confidence and move forward.
Links From The Podcast
- Learn more about We’re Busy Being Awesome here
- Sign up for your free consultation with me here
- Learn my top 6 strategies to boost your focus and concentration (free training)
- Get the top 10 tips to work with your ADHD brain (free ebook!)
- Discover my favorite ADHD resources here
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Episode #125: How to Handle No-Decision Decisions with ADHD – Decide With Confidence Now (Transcript)
Hey everybody. How are you? What is happening?
Today I want to share with you a topic that I found myself spinning around in about a week or two ago. It is something sneaky that I used to deal with all the time, but I haven’t really noticed it much in the past few years or so. So, when it snuck up on me this time, it definitely took me by surprise. And in hindsight, it makes sense why I haven’t dealt with in a little while, which I’ll explain in a minute. But first, let me tell you about today’s topic.
Today I want to talk with you about no-decision decisions. Yes, you heard me right. No decision decisions. Now, I have a feeling that when some of you hear that phrase, you’ll nod knowingly. Because if you’re like me, you are very familiar with the no decision decision.
With that being said, I’m guessing there’s also some of you out there who are much more decisive than I am, and you may not have any idea what I’m talking about. So, a no-decision decision is essentially when one is faced with making a decision, and rather than doing so, avoids it all together. Or keeps telling themselves they’re “still trying to decide.”
And by either avoiding the decision-making process altogether or by constantly waffling back and forth, they ultimately decide by default. They ultimately decide not to do the thing, say yes to the project, buy the item, or go on the trip, because either the event ends, the project gets passed to someone else, the deal closes, the product sells out, the flight books, etc.
Has this EVER happened to you? Can you relate to any of these situations? For me, it’s actually quite divided. There are certain areas in my life where I am confident in my decision-making. But there is one area that seems to get me nearly every time. And that area is making travel plans and deciding to go to events.
Here’s the truth. Making travel plans requires a way too much executive functioning for my ADHD brain, thank you very much. Figuring out all the details, the flight times, hotel and travel, whether or not I need pet care, there are so many moving parts. I get very worried about messing up a date or an important piece of information. And because I haven’t been doing it very often, my brain wants to make it a much bigger and more complicated thing then it technically is.
And this is where I noticed myself spinning in a non-decision decision loop for the last couple of weeks before I finally caught myself in the spin cycle. It took a bit of time before I finally I slowed down and to an intentional decision. Now, like I said, given the fact that I haven’t been traveling much less over the last couple of years, it makes sense that I haven’t had this on my radar. But recently, it has been much more on my mind.
The coaching school where I was certified holds an in person live training every year. It was cancelled Due to COVID the last couple of years, but they made an announcement recently that it is back on in April. There was a huge flurry of excitement with all my coach friends and colleagues and my coaches. It seemed like whenever I talked to anyone who was certified through the life coach school, the first thing that came out of their mouth was, are you going to mastermind this year? And in true form, my immediate was response was, I’m not sure yet. I still have to look into it. What are the dates again?
Now like I said, I have a pattern of doing this with events. I did this – sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally – when I worked in academia. I would put off making travel plans for my conferences for as long as possible. In fact, even when I travel back home to Minnesota to visit my family, I’ll find myself unintentionally in the spin cycle as well. I will find a great flight, and then I’ll wait on it. I’ll worry that I picked the wrong date or the wrong time. I worry about Ryan having a gig that I didn’t know about. I wonder if it’s the best time that my family will be around and available most often. And my brain spins and spins and spins until the tickets sell out, conference registration closes, etc. You get the idea.
Now with this most recent situation, I’d love to say that I recognized I was in this pattern in a day or two. But that would be a lie. It is definitely not the case. I probably had at least 10-15 people ask me if I was going, which means I offered some version of the response, “I’m not sure yet,” 10-15 times before I realized what was happening. I was stuck in a no-decision decision!
And I thought to myself…why on earth am I telling myself I’m not sure? What am I not sure about? I get to make this decision. I know I want to go. So I think it’s time that I stop spinning and decide to make this happen. So that’s what I did. But it certainly was not an easy, smooth process getting to that decision. Because I allowed my brain to get sucked into the no-decision decision vortex.
Admittedly, once I realized I was in it, I could make the decision quite quickly. And that’s because I knew I wanted to go, and I liked my reasons for wanting to go. Tthis is key. And if you ever find yourself also in the spin cycle of decision making, checking in and making sure that you like your reasons for the decision is one of the most powerful ways that you help yourself make confident decisions – both big and small. And we’ll talk more about this in just a minute.
No Decision Decisions
But first, I invite you to check in and notice if you ever get stuck in no-decision decisions. Is there anywhere in your life where you keep telling yourself, I’m trying to decide. I’m not sure yet. I’m still deciding.
I started brainstorming different areas where I’ve noticed this come up for me or when I work with my clients. And I came up with a handful of different examples, but I’m sure there are more as well. As I mentioned, the one that I frequently struggle with is travel and events. By not deciding yes or no, it’s easier to default to not going to the event, not traveling to the location, and staying with the status quo. Again, if your lower brain – what I call the toddler brain – gets to decide, it’s going to stay with what’s familiar and safe and comfortable. It will default to no.
Other situations might be in terms of shopping. Several of my clients mentioned they’ve been stuck in non-decision decisions with their holiday shopping right now. In fact, I had two or three clients last week tell me that they chose different gifts, had them waiting in various shopping carts, and then the products sold out because they were sitting in there for multiple days. So, by NOT deciding. By making a no-decision decision, they did ultimately decided not to purchase that gift. But it wasn’t intentional. They didn’t decide it wasn’t the right gift, it was instead decided by default.
Overwhelmed Worried & Confused
Now, in these first two situations – both in terms of travel details and shopping or purchasing gifts – I’ve noticed it tends to be feelings like overwhelm, confusion, worry, and uncertainty that prevent us from take the action of deciding. And that’s what those emotions are really good at. They’re very good at keeping us stuck in that loop.
What’s that saying about worry? “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”
We stay in those spinning emotions of confusion and worry, going back and forth in our mind, wearing ourselves out. We tell ourselves; I just can’t decide; I can’t make up my mind; And I don’t know if they’ll like it; I don’t know if I’LL like it; I might regret it; and I might choose the wrong dates; I might choose the wrong color, etc.
Now. With that being said. There are other feelings that can also lead to no-decision decisions, And I often see these come up around topics of work, volunteering, and general requests to do things. And I’ll give you some examples, so you see what I mean here.
Maybe somebody at work emailed you about taking on an additional project. After looking at your schedule, you know you’re swamped and can’t fit it in. You know you can’t get it done on time if you also stay on top of everything else. But, you also don’t want to have that conversation.
So, you see that email in your inbox, and rather than responding with a no, you wait. You tell yourself – or maybe the other person – that you have to check your calendar. You have to figure out what else is on your schedule. Maybe you need to run it by the team.
But in reality, you know you want to say no. You just also don’t want to feel the uncomfortable emotion that often comes up when we tell somebody no. So perhaps we keep avoiding the email until either A) the person confronts you directly and you have to either say yes or no on the spot. (And if you’re like me, this usually turns into forcefully cheerful and awkward yes.) Or B) they give up and move on to the next person and ultimately make that decision for you. And then usually we beat ourselves up for not responding like we “should” have.
And if this doesn’t happen for you at work, chances are it has happened somewhere in your life. Maybe you’ve been asked to help with your child’s hockey team, and you don’t really have the time to commit. Buuut, you’d rather feel the stress or pressure or whatever emotions come up all hockey season as you scramble to fit all these extra meetings and events rather than have the potentially uncomfortable conversation and tell someone no.
And please know that I make this observation entirely judgment free. I have absolutely been in situations like this, too. That struggle to say no – as we talked about back in episode 95 – is very real. And it is a big culprit in the no-decision decision department.
So take a minute and think through the different areas in your life. Is there anywhere you’re telling yourself, “I’m trying to decide.” “I’m still deciding” “I haven’t decided yet.” If so, these are areas to zoom in.
Because once you do, then you can ask yourself, do I like my reasons for not having decided yet? Do I like my reasons for waiting? Because there are times when you DO like your reasons for waiting. And in situations like this, it’s not a no decision decision. It’s an intentional choice to gather more information.
For example, one of my clients was asked to work on a long term research project, and she waited to commit because she wanted to learn more about what’s actually required in terms of her involvement. And she liked her reasons for that. She didn’t want to commit until she had all the facts.
But on the other hand, if you are spinning in indecision because you are prolonging the discomfort of needing to decide, as we mentioned with the hockey example, maybe you don’t like your reasons.
That was the situation for me when I was trying to decide about the mastermind. I knew I wanted to go. I was absolutely stoked to see all the amazing humans that I only ever get to see via Zoom. So, I did NOT like my reason for the indecision.
Because my reason was that I think logistical details are hard and I get worried about picking the wrong dates or making a mistake on the flights or something like that. I don’t like that reason. I don’t want my temporary discomfort of figuring out travel plans to be the cause of my no-decision decision and ultimately miss out on something that’s really important to me.
Deciding Is A Gift To Yourself
In fact, in that regard, I see it as a gift to myself to make the decision sooner rather than later. I often see the confident act of deciding as a powerful gift to both current me and future me.
It’s a gift to future me because I took the time to figure out the details so I could go. And it’s also a gift to current me, because I’m opening up so much additional brain space to focus on other things. I don’t need to have that open loop circling in the back of my mind anymore. Especially because in this situation, I knew in the end that I wanted to go anyway.
So where could you give yourself the gift of a decision? Where could you relieve the additional brain power that’s spinning in the background as unmade decisions? As non-decisions?
I like to think of non-decisions like a computer with a whole bunch of programs running in the background. What if you could close those programs by deciding? Think of how much space you’d free up to think and work much quicker and more effectively.
So again, where are you on the fence about something? What are you waffling between? And what would happen if you made a decision and moved forward?
How to Decide
Now, how can we do that? How can we make decisions confidently? This is something I work on in depth in We’re Busy Being Awesome as well as one on one with my clients.
And! If you’re listening to this in real-time, this is a quick reminder that I’m now accepting applications for the January We’re Busy Being Awesome cohort. So if joining the program is one of your decisions, don’t let the no-decision decision prevent you from missing your spot! Head to imbusybeingawesome.com/group and apply.
But like I was saying, how can we give ourselves the gift of deciding? Because decisions, analysis paralysis, and this back-and-forth waffling is so common – and so exhausting – for the brain.
One of the ways I like to help my brain stop the spin and get into decision-making mode is to remind myself that there is no right or wrong decision in nearly EVERY scenario. Unless it’s truly moral, which Google defines as “of, relating to, or concerned with the principles of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.” If you’re deciding something that does not fall within that category, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you’re free to decide whatever feels right for you.
And of course, you’re free to decide anyway, because morality is also a construct. But nevertheless, if it’s a moral thing, I’d spend more time in the deliberation. Fortunately, most of the situations where we find ourselves stuck in the spin cycle are NOT moral decisions.
For example, I don’t need to get stuck worrying about making a wrong decision when I purchase a gift for my sister. There is not a right or wrong. There is no right or wrong gift. Right or wrong is a construct we made up in our mind. In reality, we’re simply making a decision. And what’s more, she can totally return the gift. No big deal. Or if I find something else in the meantime, I can return it. So knowing that, I like to ask myself, is it worth the energy that I’m putting into this spinning and indecision?
I see this a lot with decluttering as well. Whenever I work on organization and decluttering with clients, we get into no-decision decisions with whether or not someone should keep something. And in fact, I heard on a podcast recently – and I can’t remember which one, if I do think of it I’ll put it in the show notes. But I heard someone say that clutter is essentially a bunch of unmade decisions.
In other words, clutter is a bunch of no-decision decisions. Because oftentimes, clutter piles up when we can’t decide if we want to keep it or not. When we can’t decide if we’re going to use it again or not, we put it aside to decide later. And as a side note, if you find yourself in this category of non-decision decisions, definitely download my free organization guide. I created an actual flow chart that walks you step by step through the decluttering process to help you know what to do get rid of and what to keep. I’ll link to that in the show notes as well.
So again, step one is to remind yourself that often in situations where we’re stuck in no-decision decisions, our brain wants us to believe there’s a right or wrong decision, and we get to question that. What of that’s just not true? What if you get to simply decide that it’s the right decision and go all in on it? You can do this. Did you know that? It’s true.
Another way I like to help create clarity and make up my mind on a no-decision decision is by thinking to myself, if both options are equally amazing, what would I choose? So, for example, if somebody asked me to run the concession stand for my middle schooler’s football games. And I know I don’t want to say yes, but I’m worried about saying no, I try to check in with myself.
If I could say no and feel amazing about it because I know I’m honoring my schedule and what actually fits in it. Or I could say yes to doing the concessions, not have to tell the person no, and even coach my brain into enjoying the concession experience as well. If both were possible, what would I choose? If both situations would ultimately work out, what option would I pick? That would be a pretty clear decision for me. Because I would much rather coach my brain through the discomfort of saying no than have to coach my brain for every single football game throughout the season.
Similarly, if I use my mastermind example, and all things being equal I could stay home from the mastermind and have an amazing time or go to the mastermind and have an amazing time, what would I choose? Hands down, I would choose going to the mastermind. No question.
If you could be happy either way. If it would work out either way, which option would you choose? Notice your gut reaction. Notice the immediate response your brain offers you. That sudden response often provides a lot of wisdom.
So, this week, I encourage you to check in with yourself. What are the no-decision decisions you might be making? Where are you telling yourself you’re trying to decide or you’re still making up your mind? Then ask yourself, do I like my reasons for not deciding yet? Am I still waiting on key information like my client who wanted to know more before agreeing to a long-term project? Or are you waiting because you’re avoiding something uncomfortable, like worrying you’ll buy the wrong holiday sweater, or – in my case – sitting down and doing logistical planning.
Once you’ve identified those areas where you don’t love your reasons for not making a decision, I invite you to challenge yourself and decide. If either decision could be absolutely amazing, which one would you choose? Because again – as long as you are in a safe, healthy environment and these decisions are the everyday decisions that usually take up so much of our brain power – you can coach your brain to make the most of either decision you make. You are in control of how you think, feel, and act. You get to navigate your experience. So if you can love either decision, which one would you choose? Listen for that wisdom, and get to work.
And as a reminder, We’re Busy Being Awesome is currently open for enrollment and applications are coming in. It’s been SO FUN seeing everyone’s interest. At the time of this recording there are still some spots left, so head to imbusybeingawesome.com/group to learn more and fill out the application if you think it’s a good fit for you. And if you’re listening to this outside of December, no problem! You can still head to the website and add your name to the waitlist so you’re the first to know when the next round opens up.